THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 25: A COMPETITIVE EXAMINATION
When the king traveled for change of air, or made a progress, or
visited a distant noble whom he wished to bankrupt with the cost
of his keep, part of the administration moved with him. It was
a fashion of the time. The Commission charged with the examination
of candidates for posts in the army came with the king to the
Valley, whereas they could have transacted their business just
as well at home. And although this expedition was strictly a
holiday excursion for the king, he kept some of his business
functions going just the same. He touched for the evil, as usual;
he held court in the gate at sunrise and tried cases, for he was
himself Chief Justice of the King's Bench.
He shone very well in this latter office. He was a wise and humane
judge, and he clearly did his honest best and fairest,--according
to his lights. That is a large reservation. His lights--I mean
his rearing--often colored his decisions. Whenever there was a
dispute between a noble or gentleman and a person of lower degree,
the king's leanings and sympathies were for the former class always,
whether he suspected it or not. It was impossible that this should
be otherwise. The blunting effects of slavery upon the slaveholder's
moral perceptions are known and conceded, the world over; and a
privileged class, an aristocracy, is but a band of slaveholders
under another name. This has a harsh sound, and yet should not
be offensive to any--even to the noble himself--unless the fact
itself be an offense: for the statement simply formulates a fact.
The repulsive feature of slavery is the thing, not its name. One
needs but to hear an aristocrat speak of the classes that are below
him to recognize--and in but indifferently modified measure--
the very air and tone of the actual slaveholder; and behind these
are the slaveholder's spirit, the slaveholder's blunted feeling.
They are the result of the same cause in both cases: the possessor's
old and inbred custom of regarding himself as a superior being.
The king's judgments wrought frequent injustices, but it was merely
the fault of his training, his natural and unalterable sympathies.
He was as unfitted for a judgeship as would be the average mother
for the position of milk-distributor to starving children in
famine-time; her own children would fare a shade better than the rest.